Champ: A Monster In The Lake?

map showing location of Lake Champlain AP

From Godzilla and King Kong to Mike and Scully, monsters have always loomed large in the popular imagination. But what if one of these beasts actually existed - not just on some far away continent or in a film writer's head, but in your own backyard?

Dennis Hall claims just that. Twenty years ago, he looked out onto the vastness of Lake Champlain near his home in Vergennes, Vt., and after seeing what he saw, he's never looked back. Hall has made the quest for the prehistoric Champ the focus of his life.

He isn't the only one who believes a monster lurks in those waters, reports Saturday Early Show Co-Anchor Russ Mitchell. Sighting sheets from last summer carry entries by people ranging from kids to full-grown adults. And then there are videos.

Sightings of a monster in Lake Champlain are nothing new. There are even cave drawings of something that looks a lot like Champ dating back to the 1700s. These days, there are scores of sightings each year. And on the streets of Burlington, Vt., you are likely to get a first-person account.

Whether he actually exists or not, the legend of Champ is certainly a real part of local life Mascots, car washes, commerce, even politicians celebrate the beast.

Of course, not everyone from the lake area is convinced.

"I don't honestly believe there's something that big out there," says Ellen Marsden, a professor who has been studying the lake for more than five years. "We need something mysterious out on that lake that we don't understand yet. I think it fills a human need. But-- if you're going to start subjecting it to the scrutiny of science, it's not as easy to explain."

But Dennis Hall says those who don't believe in Champ are missing out on something.

"Well, they're missing out on the possibilities that there's a little more in this world than what meets the eye," he says.

The crew from The Saturday Early Show looked and looked, but they didn't see Champ. And even if they did, they could only have captured him on video tape. Champ is protected by both New York and Vermont state law.
  • Ellen Crean

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